Wilms Tumor

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Can Wilms tumor be found early?

Wilms tumors are usually found when they start to cause symptoms such as swelling in the abdomen (belly), but by this point they have often grown quite large. They can be found earlier in some children with tests such as an ultrasound of the abdomen (see the section “How are Wilms tumors diagnosed?”). But because Wilms tumors are rare, it’s not practical to use ultrasound exams as a screening test (a test to look for disease in people with no signs or symptoms) in all children who are not at increased risk. There are no blood tests or other tests that are useful in screening otherwise healthy children for Wilms tumors.

On the other hand, screening for Wilms tumor is very important for children who have syndromes or birth defects known to be linked to this disease. For these children, most doctors recommend physical exams by a specialist and ultrasound exams on a regular basis (for example, about every 3 or 4 months at least until the age of 8) to find any kidney tumors when they are still small and have not yet spread to other organs.

Wilms tumor can also run in families, although this is rare. Talk to your doctor if you have any relatives who have had a Wilms tumor. If you do, the children in your family may need to have regular ultrasound exams of the abdomen. If a man or woman is known to have a WT1 gene mutation, testing can be done to see if they have passed the mutation on to their children. (This can be done even before birth.)

Last Medical Review: 03/06/2015
Last Revised: 02/16/2016